NICE cites Brilinta superiority in its final OK

Good news for AstraZeneca's ($AZN) new clotbuster, Brilinta. The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness watchdog has given its final blessing to the drug for use by National Health Service patients as a treatment for acute coronary syndrome.

NICE said the med, which is branded as Brilique in Europe, is a cost-effective alternative to other ACS treatments. The approval is for Brilique in combination with aspirin. The approval "recognizes the potential of ticagrelor in providing the NHS in England and Wales with another valuable tool to enable it to deal more effectively with the long-term management of ACS," Carole Longson, NICE's health technology evaluation center director, said in a statement.

Even with NICE's approval, Brilinta faces a big challenge. It has to compete with the Sanofi/Bristol-Myers Squibb clot-buster Plavix, which is not only the standard of care in many countries, but also goes off patent soon, meaning cheap generic copies will be available at a time when Brilinta will still command a brand-name premium. That is why AstraZeneca must be pleased with Longson's other statement: That NICE had "concluded from the evidence that [Brilinta] plus aspirin significantly reduces [heart attack] and death from cardiovascular causes--by 16% and 21% respectively--compared with [Plavix] plus aspirin."

- get the NICE statement
- read the Dow Jones story